Ever since I was a young boy growing up in a rural town north of Winnipeg—travelling to New York had always been on my bucketlist. I never once thought, that my opportunity to attend a conference on rural women and girls’ rights was how I’d come to be in the city that never slept. When I think of New York, I think of the countless opportunities that exist in one place. I think about a land full of new beginnings—built on the dreams of dreamers that came before them (despite recent events). I, myself, am a dreamer. I dream of a day when gender equity and not just equality is achieved. I dream of a day when consent culture is normalized, understood and accepted and not a challenging philosophy or doctrine of etiquette. I dream of a day when my brothers and sisters from every corner of the globe have access to basic health and wellness resources that we take for granted as Canadians. Yet, there is still so much that Canada has yet to address.
One of my fondest memories from CSW #62 was meeting, humanitarian—Cora Weiss—a women who has been a peace advocate for well over HALF a CENTURY. Weiss was one of 1,000 women nominated for the #Nobelpeaceprize and is internationally recognized for devoting her life to the peace movement, the movement for the advancement of women, and for civil rights and human rights. In 2000, Weiss worked on drafting the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, calling for the participation of women at all levels of government and in the prevention of violent conflict. She is the president of the Hague Appeal for Peace; leading a campaign dedicated to the abolition of war. Her goal—to reshape and refocus a vision of the world that publicly acknowledges violent conflict & war as “illegitimate, illegal, and fundamentally unjust.”
Cora Weiss was a newly discovered hero of mine. What Cora taught me above all, is to believe in yourself, believe in others, and believe in the causes that you are fighting for. We need to believe in each other in order to make the difference that each and every one of us wants to make. It is my belief that we are all hero’s, in our very own unique and respective ways. It is our duty to be fearless, to stand up and advocate for positive, meaningful change. To stand up WITH those who are unable to voice their opinions or those who are marginalized and respect the intersectionality within our communities. Cora taught me to have a hero, to stand-up with them, and be a hero yourself—NO matter your age. And what she taught me above all else, is to believe in yourself, believe in others, and believe in the causes that you are fighting for. We need to believe in each other in order to make the difference that each and every one of us wants to make.
Identifying as a male at a women’s conference was received with hesitation, skepticism and confusion from many people before I left. I was asked, “Why are you going to a Women’s conference?,” “Isn’t that just for women?” Yet, comments like this didn’t stop me. If anything, they encouraged me and allowed me to have an insightful and meaningful dialogue on the topic of allowance and accessibility. We ALL have a very important part to play in building a future we want to be proud of and building a future that empowers women.
My experience were enlightening, encouraging, and inspiring. If this conference taught me anything, it is simply a message to share with ALL people. MEN— need to be a part of this movement. MEN need to be a part of this dialogue and engaged members of this conversation. MEN and young boys are responsible for women’s rights and for the advocacy against gender based violence. Like Minister on the Status of Women, Maryam Monsef, shared—“the time is NOW.” We cannot wait to be invited to the table—as youth, we need to make room at the table for our voices, for our beliefs and for our communities.
In closing, I remember a quote from last years’ CSW – CSW #62 – “We are planting the seeds to trees we may never sit under”. As a ‘youth’ today; I am reminded of the influence that my actions have on the generations of tomorrow. We must never give up hope. It is our collective efforts to affect positive change now that plants the seeds for future generations tomorrow. It is too long to wait for someone else. It is our time—our time is NOW.